The Perfect Word

At an annual holiday party for my writers’ club, a lively discussion sprang up about the nature of writer’s block, perhaps in part motivated by a member’s brilliant sweatshirt which read “Writer’s Block: When Your Imaginary Friends Stop Talking to You.” It got us all thinking and sharing stories and tidbits and anecdotes about writer’s block from famous authors down to our own experiences.

What I loved about the conversation was the way we writers–from greenhorns to old hands–got to pool our respective knowledge and experiences together toward the common goal of cracking the code on the perfect word. Everyone contributed. It didn’t matter how long you’ve been writing or what you wrote. We all had something to add to the collective knowledge of wordsmithing.

The stories and tips about facing the terror of the blank page were at times helpful, enlightening, fascinating, or downright funny. We learned tips about ending writing sessions on cliffhangers or starting a new scene, so that your mind is always thinking about the next phase of the story and you don’t stop when the scene stops. Another idea was a kind of free writing, where the author just starts writing a stream of consciousness about what he wants to talk about and his frustrations without any editing or reserve. This allowed his mind to work through the block. We heard a funny story about a columnist in the 1920’s who, faced with a deadline, confronted the blank page by typing the word “the” on the sheet to motivate his brain. As the hours passed and no progress was made, he added “hell with it” and went to get a drink. We reiterated the usefulness of taking notes whenever an idea strikes to assist your memory. All put forward to help our fellow word weavers in their pursuit of the perfect word.

So if you find yourself staring at the unbroken, snowy field of a new story or article or blog post and the thought seems to cripple your imagination, maybe employ some of these tips. Talk to other writers to see how they have tackled the dastardly block. Try new methods of note taking or how you start pieces. Write out of order. Write backwards. Whatever you can do to climb the mountain of writer’s block and proudly conquer it.

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